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Use Of Weapons

Updated on October 20, 2009

Set in the Culture universe, this is the story of a soldier who goes to work for a super secret, super powerful group called Special Circumstances. As the powerful dirty tricks arm of the Cultures Contact organization, the group is responsible for helping newly discovered civilizations come to terms with joining the galactic community. Of course not everyone agrees...

Cheradenine Zakalwe had fought his own wars before the Culture found him and convinced him to come fight theirs. And like all soldiers, some events stay with him, haunting him, even become a part of him. When he decides one day to to try playing the good guy all on his own, the results are disastrous. So doubts abound when the Culture finds him once again to try and convince an old partner to come out of retirement and lend his name to settle a dispute.

The story is told in two streams: one going forward in the "present" time and the other tracing the past, one episode at a time. The first is the story of the man as an adult, as a member of Special Circumstances working on behalf of the Culture. His new task has him posing as a man who just gained control a huge charitable foundation and is spending money madly, all in an attempt to lure his old comrade in arms back into the spotlight, in an effort to head off war in the sector. The other story is told of the boy, the family he becomes a part of and the climatic event that forever affects the path he walks. The twin stream structure is further complicated by the prologue and epilogue, as well as frequent flashbacks. It is a creative interconnection that Banks has used in other novels to great effect.

The story is well told, the scenes well developed. The way the character is developed and revealed makes for a powerful tale. One aspect of the novel that I love is the names of the craft: the GSV Congenital Optimist and the dROU Xenophobe. Its fun to read through the Culture novels (Player of Games, Consider Phlebas) and watch to names of the craft. There is a subtle sense of humor that runs through the book as well as a sense of dread. What is this leading towards? Who is this man? A fun and exciting read to find the answers. Enjoy.


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